From ‘Coraline’ to ‘Good Omens’: 12 Best Adaptations of Neil Gaiman Stories, Ranked

The prodigious English author Neil Gaiman has written comic books and graphic novels, children’s books, nonfiction, full-length novels, short stories, and screenplays. His writing appeals to a broad audience, and he has the fanbase — and a pile of literary awards — to prove it. The critically acclaimed DC comic book series The Sandman is being released later this year as a live-action Netflix series starring Tom Sturridge. Also in the pipeline are adaptations of Dead Boy Detectives with Briana Cuoco, Anansi Boys with Delroy Lindo, Whoopi Goldberg, and Fiona Show, and, as was recently announced, The Graveyard Book.

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Fans love to see their favorite characters brought to life on the big (or small) screen but turning a written work into a movie can be hit or miss; it all depends on how it’s handled. While we wait (impatiently) for Gaiman’s upcoming projects, it’s a good time to revisit his existing adaptations. Who’s up for a Neil Gaiman marathon?

Updated on July 20, 2023, by Jessie Nguyen:

Good Omens Season 2 premieres on the 28th of July and will bring back not only the fan-favorite divine duo, but also the excitement and thrills of Neil Gaiman’s fantastical universe. However, the show isn’t Gaiman’s first adaptation; rather, it’s just one of many that fans may have seen. Thus, now is a great time to catch up.

12 ‘How to Talk to Girls at Parties’ (2017)

'How to Talk to Girls at Parties' starring Elle Fanning was adapted from Neil Gaiman's 2006 short story
Image via A24/StudioCanal

Based on Gaiman’s 2006 short story of the same name, the sci-fi rom-com How to Talk to Girls at Parties revolves around Enn (Alex Sharp) meeting – and falling in love with – visiting alien Zan (Elle Fanning) in the setting of the 1970s London punk rock scene, managed by Queen Boadicea (Nicole Kidman).RELATED: This Neil Gaiman Story Almost Got Adapted by Pixar

Critics were quick to point out that screenwriter-director John Cameron Mitchell had overcomplicated Gaiman’s source material at the cost of narrative consistency, which even a great cast couldn’t salvage. Indeed, the movie is the worst-ranked Neil Gaiman adaptation on Rotten Tomatoes, with an overall approval rating of 48%. Probably best to avoid this film and read Gaiman’s short story instead.

11 ‘Beowulf’ (2007)

beowulf 2007 ray winstone
Image via Paramount Pictures/Warner Bros Pictures

Gaiman co-wrote the screenplay for Beowulf with Roger Avary and director Robert Zemeckis. An adaptation of an Old English poem that tells the story of the titular legendary Geatish warrior (Ray Winstone) and his quest to slay the monstrous Grendel (Crispin Glover), the movie was filmed in 3D using human characters animated with motion capture technology like that used in The Polar Express (2004) and Monster House (2006).

Despite an all-star cast that included Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright, Angelina Jolie, and John Malkovich, the film didn’t perform at the box office. Many critics celebrated the cast’s performances and the groundbreaking visual effects, but some took issue with the screenwriters’ interpretation of the epic poem. While Beowulf might not suit everyone’s tastes, it’s worth a watch for its beautiful animation, stunning effects, and talented ensemble of actors.

10 ‘Neil Gaiman’s Likely Stories’ (2016)

'Neil Gaiman's Likely Stories' is a series of standalone short films based on Gaiman's short stories
Image via Sid Gentle Films

The 2016 four-episode series Neil Gaiman’s Likely Stories is a compilation of four short films based on Gaiman’s unrelated short stories, “Foreign Parts,” “Feeders and Eaters,” “Closing Time,” and “Looking for the Girl.” Gaiman wrote, executive produced, and appeared as himself in the episode “Looking for the Girl.” The discrete stories are a bit Black Mirror-meets-The Twilight Zone. Macabre, supernatural, dark, and imaginative, is precisely what you’d expect from Gaiman.

Directing duo Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard (they helmed the 2014 Nick Cave documentary, 20,000 Days on Earth) ensure some consistency across the episodes and generally direct the cast — which includes Monica Dolan, George MacKay, and Paul Ritter well. However, a lack of clarity at times detracts from the source material. Overall, Likely Stories is more of a companion piece to Gaiman’s stories rather than a series of standalone short films.

9 ‘MirrorMask’ (2005)

'MirrorMask' features sumptuous visual effects but is light on narrative
Image via Samuel Goldwyn Films

Gaiman co-wrote the fantasy film MirrorMask with long-time collaborator and artist Dave McKean who also directed. In a reversal of the typical narrative involving circuses, teenager Helena Campbell (Stephanie Leonidas) wants to run away from her parents’ circus to join the real world. After her mother (Gina McKee) is hospitalized, Helena finds herself in a fantasy dreamscape populated with monsters and mysterious people.RELATED: Remember When Neil Gaiman Wrote for ‘Doctor Who’ and It Was Kinda Bad?

A movie that was marketed to both children and adults, MirrorMask’s sumptuous visual effects won over most critics. Still, others were unhappy with what they perceived to be a lack of narrative substance. New York Times film reviewer Stephen Holden did, however, conclude that while MirrorMask was “an acquired taste,” it was “

8 ‘Neverwhere’ (1996)

Neil Gaiman wrote the script for 'Neverwhere' before writing a more expansive novel
Image via BBC Two

Gaiman scripted Neverwhere as a BBC Two miniseries and wrote a novelization of the series during its production. Set in the magical realm of London Below — which exists parallel to the traditional London Above — Neverwhere follows the adventures of Richard Mayhew (Gary Bakewell) after he helps the injured London Below resident, Door (Laura Fraser). Trapped in the Below, Richard must find a way back to London Above while being hunted by hired assassins, Messrs Croup (Hywel Bennett) and Vandemar (Clive Russell).

Budgetary constraints meant the series was shot on video with the intention of it being “filmized” later. Unfortunately, that process never occurred, so the lighting, intended for a film-based production, makes the series appear older than it is. While Neverwhere is an excellent introduction to Gaiman’s wonderful imagination with outstanding performances from a competent cast, if you want the whole experience, you’d do better to read the book.

7 ‘American Gods’ (2017 – 2021)

'American Gods' starring Ian McShane brings Gaiman's sprawling novel to life
Image via Lionsgate Television Fremantle

Based on Gaiman’s sprawling 2001 novel, American Gods sees ex-convict Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) join the mysterious Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) and a panoply of other Old Gods on a trip across America to do battle with the New Gods.

Season 1 was brilliantly realized with showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green lending their trademark visual style to Gaiman’s excellent story. Unfortunately, Season 2 was plagued with problems: Fuller and Green were let go and replaced with Jesse Alexander — who was also fired — and actors Gillian Anderson and Kristin Chenoweth decided not to return. Season 2’s lackluster reception meant that, despite Gaiman’s vision for a five-season series, American Gods was axed after three (although Season 3 saw a return to form). American Gods brought Gaiman’s work to life in unexpected ways, utilizing a great cast that included Pablo Schreiber, Crispin Glover, and Emily Browning. If you haven’t seen American Gods, it’s worth watching from beginning to end.

6 ‘Stardust’ (2007)

'Stardust' featuring Claire Danes is a faithful adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novel
Image via Paramount Pictures

When Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) promises his love interest, Victoria (Sienna Miller), he’ll venture into the magical realm of Faerie to retrieve a fallen star for her in exchange for her hand in marriage, he gets more than he bargains for when he comes across a real fallen star, Yvaine (Claire Danes).RELATED: The Best Live-Action Fairy Tale Movies That Disney Haven’t Touched

This faithful adaptation of Gaiman’s 1999 fantasy-adventure novel of the same name features a stellar cast that, in addition to the aforementioned actors, includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Henry Cavill, and Sir Ian McKellan as the narrator. Like the book, Stardust successfully combines action and the left-of-center humor that Gaiman is known for, combining multiple tones and genres to create a fantastic viewing experience that holds up 15 years on. Also, if you’ve ever wanted to see De Niro as a pirate in drag, watch this movie.

5 ‘Coraline’ (2009)

'Coraline' - a horror movie for kids and adults alike - is very watchable
Image via Focus Features

Gaiman’s 2002 novella of the same name was made into a big-screen stop-motion animated feature, Coraline, in 2009. Coraline (Dakota Fanning) is a lonely 11-year-old girl who dreams of a life better than the one she knows. When she discovers a secret door in her house, she enters a strange parallel world where things take a dark turn.

Although written as a children’s story, Coraline is a horror film at its heart. Originally developed as a live-action movie, it transitioned to animation after director Henry Selick impressed Gaiman with his extended screenplay. Boasting excellent performances from Teri Hatcher, UK comediennes Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, and Ian McShane, Coraline remains a favorite with fans and critics. The exquisitely vivid alternate-world palette and imaginative story make Coraline a movie that can be watched repeatedly without losing its entertainment value.

4 ‘Lucifer’ (2016 – 2021)

Tom Ellis with angel wings in Lucifer
Image via Warner Bros Television Distribution

The original fallen angel, Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis), owes his existence to Gaiman’s The Sandman comic book series. Lucifer, the supernatural crime procedural series, entertained audiences for six seasons before wrapping in September 2021. As befits the character’s creator, Gaiman provided the voice of God in the Season 3 episode, “Once Upon a Time.”

Ellis’ Lucifer is very different from the version that appears in the Sandman comics. It’s more appropriate to say he was “loosely based on” or “inspired by” Gaiman’s Lucifer. Although he’s a DC character, the series did not introduce any other Sandman characters or DC superheroes, which, sadly, meant Lucifer was just another crime procedural.

3 ‘DC Showcase: Death’ (2019)

DC Showcase- Death’ (2019) (1)

Based on the eponymous character created by Neil Gaiman and Mike Dringenberg, DC Showcase: Death introduces viewers to another member of the Endless, Death (voiced by Jamie Chung), in an animated short film. The film follows the story of Gotham City inhabitant Vincent Omata (Leonardo Nam) which is told through flashbacks.

RELATED: ‘The Sandman’ Characters Straight Out Of Ancient Mythology

This short is remarkable for being the first Endless adaptation for the film and is lauded for the adherence it restores to Gaiman’s original source, despite being an original plot. Additionally, with stunning animation and excellent storytelling, the movie is a must-watch for both the Endless Tale and the magnificent fantasy of Gaiman’s world.

2 ‘Good Omens’ (2019 – )

Gaiman ensured that 'Good Omens' was an extremely faithful adaption in honor of his late co-writer, Terry Pratchett
Image via Chris Raphael

In 1990, Gaiman and his good friend Terry Pratchett set out to write the funniest novel about the end of the world. They succeeded with Good Omens, which, almost 30 years later, was made into a hugely popular Amazon/BBC production. Sadly, Pratchett passed away in 2015 and was not around to witness it.

Gaiman was the showrunner for Good Omens and, in that role, was committed to ensuring the series would be to Pratchett’s liking. A remarkably faithful adaptation, it’s the story of an unlikely duo — the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and the demon Crowley (David Tennant) — working together to prevent the apocalypse. Season 1 was packed with a talented cast (many of whom were fans of the book) that included Jon Hamm, Frances McDormand, Miranda Richardson, Adria Arjona, Michael McKean, Brian Cox, and Jack Whitehall.

1 ‘The Sandman’ (2022)

The Sandman’ (2022) (1)

Based on the comic book written by Neil Gaiman and published by DC Comics, The Sandman follows the titular character (Tom Sturridge), also known as Morpheus or Dream, the embodiment of dreams and one of the seven Endless, is captured in an occult ritual in 1916. Following his escape, Dream searches for his misplaced magical relics.

The Sandman is Gaiman’s most recent adaptation with his vision and story being faithfully and beautifully adapted which can be shown in the end result, full of dedication and care. Moreover, it has very gorgeous and engrossing plots and locales, and its practically flawless casting elevates it even further.

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